Friday, January 30, 2009



Created by The TEAM. Directed by Rachel Chavkin. The Public Theatre, then PS122. Through Feb. 15.

With the exception of Time Out New York's Helen Shaw (more on that later), critics respond to The TEAM's piece about New Orleans, architecture and the history of race relations warmly. Everyone has kind things to say about The TEAM's Kristin Sieh (who also got high marks for her performance in St. Joan of the Stockyards at PS 122 a few years back) and all complain that the 2.5 hour show is too long. Shaw is the only reviewer to take offense at the play's casting of a white actors to play African American roles, including a slave, while Ben Brantley at the Times appreciates the " affecting case" the play makes "for the enduring appeal of Gone With the Wind". UPDATE: this show's grade dropped from a B to a B- due to one extremely negative review from The New Yorker.

Backstage A- (Lisa Jo Sagolla) A delightfully disjointed assemblage of actively staged parodic scenes conflating characters and settings from Gone With the Wind with modern-day Southerners, Hollywood types, and intellectuals, Architecting is a riveting examination of American attitudes about race, homes, money, and gumption.

The New York Times B+
(Ben Brantley) At over two and a half hours “Architecting” can seem as sprawling and long-winded as Mitchell’s novel. This show never met an idea it didn’t like. But as it considers, with a refreshing lack of judgment, just what allows people to survive catastrophe (Example A being the dauntless Scarlett), Architecting acquires a poignancy and humanity that make it more than a play of ideas. (The play also makes a smart and affecting case for the enduring appeal of Gone With the Wind.) And some sequences, especially those between Ms. Sieh and Mr. Boyd in the second act, quietly summon entire lives of everyday loss.

Village Voice B+
(Angela Ashman) Architecting—a bold, compelling collaborative piece by the TEAM and the National Theatre of Scotland running at Under the Radar—begins with Carrie, an idealistic New York architect who arrives in New Orleans to develop a "real American community" out of the post-Katrina rubble... Tackling such hefty issues as racism and the failures of reconstruction in New Orleans, the TEAM successfully does so without cynicism. Unfortunately, they take more than two and a half hours to do it. Despite being full of fun surprises, the work could use some trimming to make it sparkle like the belle of the ball.

That Sounds Cool B
(Aaron Riccio) The vibrant, energetic TEAM looks at America again, this time building a story from the "thermodynamic history" of a world influenced by a fictional Gone With the Wind past. Even with an architectural center, the four narrative "walls" can be jarring (and over-long), but just as the characters of Architecting take what they can from "history," savvy theatergoers will find things to admire, or at least goggle at, here....Under Rachel Chavkin's well-orchestrated direction, the visual result is similar to that of the Elevator Repair Service; the difference is that while ERS's flair is rooted solidly in language, the TEAM is hardly going by the book (let alone word for word). In any case, it makes for an exciting romp, driven by a cohesive ensemble and lacking only a follow-through for the audience. While Architecting fulfills the TEAM's definition of architecture ("that the building have a strong sense of identity"), what with all the moving walls and gaping plot holes, it's not easily inhabited by the average theatergoer.

CurtainUp B
(Jenny Sandman) This is an ambitious play, and its true genius lies in the characters created by the TEAM, a group of theatre artists who bonded as freshmen at NYU many years ago. Their Margaret Mitchell ismy favorite character—the stereotypical Atlantan with a sugar-sweet voice hiding a spine of steel.... For all the clevern postmodern interactions, however, the story itself is one act too long. While the first act is full of energy and surprises, the second act falls flat and fails to capitalize on the quiet poetry of the first. The overall momentum sputters to a halt long before the actual ending. The real reason to see this play is to see the TEAM in action. After all, where else can you see men in corsets dancing to "Dixie?"

Show Showdown B-
(Patrick Lee) Although overlong, and not always smoothly staged, Architecting is captivating mostly because it's uncomfortable - its high-minded ruminations on how we construct history don't go down easy when they play out in scenes such as the one (adapted from the novel) where Scarlett O'Hara defends a slave from the verbal abuse of a Yankee woman. If such scenes aim to show us nuance and contradiction, or the "truth of the times", they backfired for me. To use Gone With The Wind for its place in the American consciousness is one thing, but to invest in it as truth is another.

Time Out NY D+
(Helen Shaw) For a young company, nothing hurts like success. Already, Rachel Chavkin and her TEAM collective have had a flurry of well-deserved attention. A year ago, their delightful Particularly in the Heartland used pastiche, audience interaction and the staggeringly talented Kristin Sieh to unpack a whole picnic basket of Midwestern clichés. So could it just be elevated expectations that make their sprawling, occasionally offensive Architecting such a disappointment?

The New Yorker F
(Unsigned) The experimental theatre group the TEAM, in this nearly three-hour-long, overstuffed, and self-indulgent mashup of “Gone with the Wind” and post-Katrina New Orleans, mistakes naïveté for sincerity. In their hands, contemporary American experience consists solely of clichéd provincialism, bad Southern accents, twee musical breaks, and pretentious monologues about “force” and “history” that read like a college term paper.

BS A- 12; NYT B+ 11; VV B+ 11; TSC B 10; CU B 10; SS B- 9; TONY D+ 5; TNY F 1; TOTAL = 69/8=8.63 = B-

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